Rehabilitation

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 3rd November 2008.

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Photo of David Kidney David Kidney PPS (Rt Hon Rosie Winterton, Minister of State), Department for Work and Pensions 2:30 pm, 3rd November 2008

What rehabilitation services his Department provides for service personnel.

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Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

Service personnel requiring rehabilitation may be referred either to the defence medical rehabilitation centre at Headley Court, or, for personnel with less serious musculo-skeletal injuries, to one of 15 regional rehabilitation units in the UK and Germany.

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Photo of David Kidney David Kidney PPS (Rt Hon Rosie Winterton, Minister of State), Department for Work and Pensions

We in Staffordshire are very pleased to be hosting the new headquarters for the entire defence medical training service. As more than 1,000 doctors, nurses and other staff make their homes in Staffordshire, can we start as we mean to go on and train them all in looking after and rehabilitating our injured service personnel holistically, whether through medical services, therapies or reablement?

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Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

I thank my hon. Friend for his question and thank his constituents who will be involved in supporting our injured servicemen and women. The Government are investing in the scheme, and we must ensure that people are looked after both when they are in service and once they leave.

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Photo of Elfyn Llwyd Elfyn Llwyd Shadow Spokesperson (Innovation, Universities and Skills), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Justice)

On the broad issue of rehabilitation, the Minister will know that I have been raising the question of ex-service personnel currently behind bars, who constitute 10 per cent. of the entire prison population, or more than 8,500 people. Having raised the issue with the Prime Minister a fortnight ago and in debate a week before that, may I ask the Minister what progress is being made on precisely quantifying the problem, so that we can look into precisely the answers that we require?

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Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his interest in the subject. The figure of 10 per cent. is not correct, but the Department is conducting a study with the Ministry of Justice to quantify it. I know that he takes a keen interest in the subject and cares about it deeply, so if he would like to contact my office for a meeting, I should be more than willing to talk to him about it.

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Photo of Brian Jenkins Brian Jenkins Labour, Tamworth

Will my hon. Friend give me an assurance that he is satisfied that when injured personnel leave such establishments as Headley Court and return home, their homes have been adapted, so that they fit easily and readily back into their home environment, and that we are prepared to step in where necessary and do the job before they return home, so that it is not left to the local authority?

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Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

The Secretary of State and I have visited Headley Court in the past few weeks, where there are first-rate teams of welfare officers, whose job it is to ensure that that transition is as smooth as possible. My hon. Friend will also be aware of the Command Paper published earlier this year, which raised the issue of adaptation and ensuring that servicemen and women who require adaptations at home following injuries are made a priority.

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Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Defence)

Units returning from theatre report that up to one third of their manpower have defects in hearing acuity or tinnitus, much of which is severely disabling, leading to personal hardship, significant force attrition and compensation claims running into millions. British troops have to put up with poorer hearing protection and rehabilitation than the Americans, whose Government have been far more proactive in that regard. Is there any risk of the Minister taking the issue seriously?

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Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

I will ignore the churlish comments at the end of the hon. Gentleman's question. I had a meeting last week with the Surgeon General and General Baxter, the head of Defence Medical Services, about that exact subject. Since 2007, additional double-ended plug devices have been given to all those in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Surgeon General has been proactive in setting up a group in the Ministry of Defence to look specifically into hearing loss. If the hon. Gentleman had done a bit of research, he might also have been aware of Project PECOC, which will introduce new devices from as early as April next year that not only stop hearing damage, but allow individuals to hear commands.

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